Sunday, June 5, 2011

Live!: Kishi Bashi, Nightlands, & Sondre Lerche at the Bowery Ballroom

Unlike my marathon listening session of Sondre Lerche’s new album, one of the things I made sure I did was to deprive myself of the opportunity to listen to his opening bands before the concert. Something about wanting my initial reaction to happen then and there (or something weird like that) and for better or worse I’m glad I did.

K. Ishibashi (Or Kishi Bashi) took the stage and won me over in an instant. With his spirited virtuosic violin playing, easy going demeanor and personable stage presence, and overwhelming gratefulness it would’ve been hard not to. The second Kishi Bashi started singing random Japanese lyrics into his looping mic, was when I knew I was sold though. Despite a small misstep bringing one of his songs to a screeching halt, Kishi Bashi trucked on, treating listeners to a sexy pseudo rap song called “Just the Tip” that made the audience giggle with glee, and when he laughed into his final song of the set “Manchester” with its everything but the kitchen sink composition and lively multi-tasking, it was clear that Kishi Bashi had made fans out of everyone. A feat he totally deserved.

The second opener, Nightlands, featuring Dave Hartley of Sondre Lerche’s backing band was a little different. Somehow mashing up folk rock, dance-pop, and heavy amounts of electronica, Nightlands was an experience to be had. Using harmonizer pedals in addition to its four part vocal section seemed a little like overkill. Actually from their use of four synthesizers, heavy distortion, and reverb, everything about their love of the loud, abrasive sounds and the robotically electronic seemed a little over done. But there was a define potential and talent in the band that was allowed to shine through underneath all the electronic haze and robotic vocals. If they stripped down a little, I’m sure they would’ve been more greatly appreciated.

When Sondre Lerche took the stage at 11 (to rambunctious applause, I might add), there was little to be said. Unlike his previous bands that had taken the time to introduce themselves and warm up the crowd, Lerche launched right into his first song “Ricochet” off the new self-titled album which lead right into an energy laden “Private Caller”. When Lerche did speak, it was always something charming or humorous and a little more than mere gratitude. After revealing that it had been almost 5 years since his last show at the Bowery, Lerche then set out to make it count playing a pretty even mixture of new and old and delighting a room full of spectators with flashy guitar pyrotechnics and witty onstage banter with comedic foil, drummer Dave Heilman.

After seeing Sondre Lerche for the first time last month in a small crowded bar and this time in a large sold out venue one thing remains the same: Sondre Lerche is a remarkable showman. Whereas his albums are a lot tamer, up on stage the man really let loose with balls-to-the-wall energy and a ferocity that belies Lerche’s charmingly pleasant demeanor. After such a charged performance, it was no surprise to anyone amid the thunderous nonstop applause that the man would be coming back to play an encore. The encore was a set of songs: somber ballad “Maybe You’re Gone”, a mammoth and intense “Dead Passengers” that clocked up somewhere around 10 minutes, and one of Sondre’s favorite audience participation songs “Modern Nature”. The show seemed over after that, but no one stopped cheering and so the man of the hour took to the stage again to play a very final “My Hands Are Shaking”.

Seeing Sondre Lerche live before, I shouldn’t have been surprised by Lerche’s onstage gait and yet, it’s something so completely inspired that I know even if I see him a hundred more times, I’ll still be surprised. And adding Kishi Bashi to his backing band was a great choice because like Lerche, K. really gets into what he’s playing and reacts with a sort of unbridled sincerity that has to be seen to be believed. A truly wonderful concert put on by a man who’s had about a decade of experience. If you want to have all your expectations shattered, your eardrums pleasantly rocked, and your heart triumphantly won, go see Sondre Lerche. He’s still on tour. You won’t regret it.

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